IMS concerned by pattern of harassment against Azerbaijan free expression advocate

International Media Support is concerned by reports that Emin Huseynov, Chairperson of the Azerbaijani media rights organisation Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety and Director of Objective TV, has been in hiding in the Embassy of Switzerland in Baku for almost six months.

Huseynov sought shelter at the Embassy in order to avoid arrest on what rights groups say are fabricated charges following his criticism of Azerbaijan’s human rights record in the international arena.

IMS has been collaborating with Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) to promote professional journalism and free expression in Azerbaijan for several years. Last summer, as part of an unprecedented crackdown on dissent, Azerbaijan’s authorities froze IRFS’ bank accounts, raided its offices and imposed a travel ban on key staff. Emin Huseynov was forced into hiding.

On 5 August 2014, Emin Huseynov was stopped at the Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku. He was prevented from traveling to Istanbul, Turkey where he was due to receive medical treatment. No explanation was provided for the travel ban. On 8 August, Huseynov’s home was subjected to a police search. Following this, IRFS offices were illegally searched and all organisational documents and equipment were seized.

Since 8 August, Emin Huseynov has been forced into hiding in order to avoid arrest. On 18 August, Huseynov came into the Embassy of Switzerland, where he has stayed since. Although technically he remains free to leave, he is in effect a prisoner in his own country. Huseynov is in poor health as a result of a spinal injury.

Emin Huseynov faces charges under three articles of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan: articles 308 (abuse of office), 213 (tax evasion) and 192 (illegal business). International organisations and European institutions have repeatedly condemned the charges against Emin Huseynov and his organisation.

IMS is very concerned about Huseynov’s health and his isolation at the Embassy. IMS calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to drop charges against Huseynov and provide for his safe passage from Azerbaijan.